Ice-T, Body Count & The Home Invasion of America

Ice-T may be known first today as an actor. But in the late 80‘s he was a dangerous emcee who almost single-handily took down the vast Warner Bros. empire with his tongue.

A key figure in Hip-Hop culture, Ice-T recorded and released his first single, The Coldest Rap, in 1982. In 1984, he appeared in the cult classic film Breakin’ as Rap Talker with his song Tibetan Jam featured on its soundtrack. Reprising his role in its sequel, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo in 1986.   

The same year, he dropped the seminal game changing gangster rap classic, “6 in the Mornin’”. Signing with Sire, a highly respected visionary Warner Bros. distributed label and releasing his full-length debut, Rhyme Pays, in the Winter of 1987. It was the first album to ever receive the Parental Advisory explicit content sticker.

In 1988, Ice-T hit hard and furious with his ultra descriptive tale of life inside Los Angeles notorious Bloods and Crips gangs, Colors. The song announced the major motion picture starring Sean Penn and Robert Duvall and overnight Ice-T went international to the hoods of the world. Following up in the Fall with the edgy Power, complete with the most gangster album cover, ever, and a remake of the Curtis Mayfield classic, I’m Your Pusher.

1989 saw The Iceberg/Freedom of Speech… Just Watch What You Say!

In 1991, Ice-T blessed the world with his most acclaimed and eagerly anticipated album, O.G. Original Gangster. Predated two months by hood essential major motion picture, New Jack City, and its explosive Ice-T title track song. The eponymous song Body Count an introduction to the no frills hard rock punk band, fronted by Ice-T. Collectively touring stadiums together on Lollapalooza in the Summer.

“I grew up listening to Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple,” says Ernie C, lead guitarist, songwriter and co-founder of Body Count. “Everyone says our music is more Punk like. That’s the way it came out. I wasn’t purposely trying to make it sound any kind of way. When we put the band together it wasn’t like, well, we need to sound like this. We started playing and that’s what happened. Then people started labeling what we do.”

This interview with Ernie C. took place April 21, 1992 in Redondo Beach, Ca. One week before the Rodney King verdict and Los Angeles riots. F.B.I. surveillance in effect.

In March of 1992, Body Count released their full-length debut. The single was There Goes the Neighborhood.  Ice-T and Body Count performed on the same bill all over the United States and Canada. By the time the tour came to a close, in their home State of California, dates were being cancelled by fearful venues and Promoters, and the real United States of America was exposed. The intense heat a result of the final song on the album, a live show feature for over one year, Cop Killer.

“People, they get really nervous. People, they knew Ice-T and the controversy he stirred up over the last albums. Body Count was even more hardcore.

Right now, when we book an Ice-T/Body Count show together, Promoters get really nervous. They promote it too much to the Blacks they’ll get all the Black kids. They promote Body Count they’ll get all the White kids, and then they get nervous. They’ll get the pit going and then you’ll get a riot and all this kind of stuff.

We did eighty shows all across the U.S. and Canada with no problems. Both Body Count and the Ice-T show together, so it can work. In the future we’ll probably separate the two shows. We’ll do an Ice-T show. Ice will go out with the Geto Boys and Ice Cube, or whatever. Then we’ll do Body Count with Megadeth, or whoever it might be. Until society can accept it.

We ran into a lot of problems. Salt Lake City had twelve carloads of Cops. And the place was no more than five hundred people. We had twelve carloads of Cops. They had guys on motorcycles, Horses, and a bike patrol and the gang unit.”   

Cop Killer reached the ears of Republican President George H.W. Bush and his party, who disparaged it in public. Great American actor, civil rights activist, and President of the National Riffle Association, Charlton Heston, recited lyrics from it and album companion piece, KKK Bitch, at a Time-Warner shareholders meeting. The album too controversial for a domestic release in Canada. Its status challenged the First Amendment and freedom of speech in America with Warner Bros. holding the line until key shareholders and revenues began to drop exponentially and the song was pulled in the late Summer.

This interview with Ice-T took place between October 1-3 1992 in Los Angeles, Ca. The scars were fresh, the eyes of the world upon him, and there was work to be done. He was in the studio working on the fifth Ice-T album, Home Invasion album. Production on the second Body Count album, Born Dead, had begun. The major motion picture release Trespass, his co-star turn with Ice Cube, scheduled to be in theaters Christmas Day. 

“The ejection of Black into the White youth of America is the last stage of preparation for the revolution,” he says. “All everybody wants to know is why is there all the drama, what’s all the controversy about, and I truly believe its the injection of Black rage. White kids are all of a sudden feeling the anger the Black kids have and they’re going home and telling their parents about it, and now that’s why they want to shut rap down. Really, they’re gonna shut all this music down because never in America have White kids been so mad about Black problems. It’s a very important issue. The homes have been invaded.”

The question is did he give in to pressures of the powers that be and pull the song?

“Nah. That was a move of calling the Cops. What they said was it was all about the money and I said it isn’t about money. I’ll give the fucking record away.

My record can sell with or without that particular song. I was very concerned with people feeling we did that record trying to grandstand the issue, and people saying at the end of the end of the day the only reason Body Count is around is because of that song, Cop Killer. The album is more than that, and all the true Body Count fans already had the record, and that the only people who were getting it at this point were people buying it to criticize it or curious assholes.

I said, we’ll pull the record. It was a move that I threw it back at the Cops. Now It’s gone. Now, either leave us alone or tell the truth. The truth is you just don’t like me. There’ll be no more pulling of records. At the time they had managed to stagnate the entire industry with this one issue. Also, it was a good way to show people that censorship is possible. People always (said) they can’t censor. Okay, that record is gone. You’ll never hear it again. How do you like it? This is where it could be. It could have been mandatory. People got to wake up. I’m always going to do that move that nobody expects.”

Intelligent Hoodlum AKA,Tragedy Khadafi, had his song, Bullet, with the same sentiment pulled prior to release. Legendary Samoan rap/rock pioneers with deep gang affiliations, Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. (Too Rough International Boo-Yaa Empire), had a song pulled too.

“That’s what’s going on but it had nothing to do with me. Me pulling a record has nothing to do with it. The censors are armed. When they put an embargo against Warner Bros. and pull 150 million dollars out of the company that’s what makes people get censored. It had nothing to do with what Ice-T did. It had to do with the fact these record companies are in it for money and their political views are not parallel to the views of the artist. And they’re not into making waves. They’re into making dollars. You turn into a liability they’re gonna look out for their interest.

I considered taking Body Count to an indie, my shit to an indie, but at this moment, as it stands, I have yet to be censored by my label. They have not stepped to me and said this is something you can’t do. When that day comes I have to make a decision.”

Would it make a difference if Cop Killer was a straight rap song?

“It has nothing to do with rap or rock. it has to do with Black anger. If I had did Cop Killer and it was Country record they would have shot it down. But, N.W.A. did “Fuck The Police” and I did kill the Police. And I managed to touch the nerve in America, which they have a law called sedition, which is Anarchy. Let’s go head up with the government, even if its violent. It’s against the law. They move with all the forces. The N.R.A. and everybody.  I challenge any rock group, white, black, to make another record about killing Cops at this moment in the history in America. They’re not allowing that shit. I hate to think it was totally racist but it has a lot to do with me sending a Black attitude home with the white kids, like i said, again, it’s Home Invasion.”

Kool Keith – Man of a Thousand Faces

Kool Keith is undeniably the most innovative and eccentric figure to ever pick up a microphone and rap; the George Clinton of Hip-Hop. 

Born in The Bronx, the birthplace of Hip-Hop, revered as the inventor of abstract rap and a Player from the day his legendary crew, Ultramagnetic MC’s, dropped their second single, Ego Trippin’, in 1986. Dominating the hearts and minds of true blue Hip-Hop artists, fans and critics alike on the crew’s highly influential Critical Beatdown in 1988 until their third and final offering, The Four Horsemen, in 1993.

Relocating to Hollywood, Ca, Keith flipped the script and returned as the heralded Dr. Octagon, a time traveling ET gynecologist and surgeon in 1995, appealing to the designer drug crowd and touring the world in 1996, eventually signing with Steven Spielberg’s Dreamworks label. Referring to the project he recorded in a day as scrambled eggs with cheese and pepperoni. 

In 1997, Kool Keith the Player on a strict diet of sex, porn and the seedy side of Hollywood life, dropped the infamous Sex Style album on his very own Funky Ass Records. The label name an ode to the illusion of strippers. The cover featuring a relaxed Keith in underwear, boots and muscle shirt, posing beside XXX star Spantaneeus Xtasty. 

“Marilyn Manson, people think he’s dope. I want to be up there.  I’m up there. I’m next to Stan Beck. I’m bigger than Guns N Roses now. Fuck Nirvana. We just big. We are Rock; I’m Rock.”

Holding court on the phone for an hour back in 1997, Kool Keith discusses his storied career, Hollywood life, exposes rapper illusions, disparages sample happy Producers, and what he terms the Tracy Chapman effect of artists selling out their culture and souls to achieve success.

“I’m doing something different. I lived in New York all my life. New York is narrow minded sometimes. The Rego situation there and the mixtapes, its getting stagnant now. Those muthaphukkas is thinking an SP12 and a sampler is their life. I spoke to certain artists, and they know who they are, about drum machines and different types of things and they couldn’t understand my conversation when I started mentioning Moogs and Prophets and DX7s and D50s and different types of keyboards and equipment.

They couldn’t fucking digest it because those slow muthaphukkas didn’t understand. It’s not about an SP12 and a sampler. That’s a Charlie Brown and Linus setup. In Charlie Brown, Linus had that little fucking piano, and a lot of these narrow minded Producers should wake up a realize that they got to get up off that Linus type bullshit. Sitting down with that one fucking piano.

There’s a lot of other instruments out to use. It’s a bunch of Premier wannabe’s. I respect Premier, but it’s a bunch of Premier wannabe’s. They know who the fuck they are. They need to stop it and go out, read keyboard magazines and books, and realize and open their fucking minds to know there’s other music out here and respect other music.” 

Highly upset the evolution of his beloved Hip-Hop from streets, lights and culture experienced a cross pollination with farm and crop, “to calm America down”,  Keith rails against fantasy comical groups jumping around in colourful videos shouting out Mafia slogans. 

Citing consumer sellout plans, marketing schemes, sampling Producer thieves, and rappers who lease their own careers to illuminate a champagne lifestyle as Hip-Hop killers.  Keith illustrates how “fronting is real big in America”.

“When Rakim, when everybody was rhyming back in the days, we had our stuff made. We was wearing the Gucci stuff and everything was fly back then. All those groups had fly gear on but they didn’t rap about it. Now, its like, more rappers just rapping about what they wear and what they got and what they own.  It’s no more real skills on the mic. Its a lot of materialistic bragging. That’s like 75% of rap right now, so we have a problem.”

GangStarr – You Know the Steez

Gang Starr is one of the top crews to ever come out of the East Coast. Revered for their smooth jazz styled Hip-Hop, then that real Boom Bap. The duo of Guru and DJ Premier released four well received influential albums, No More Mr. Guy in 1989, Step In The Arena in 1991, Daily Operation in 1992, and Hard To Earn in 1994. Each album furthering their pioneering sounds and cementing Gang Starr as bonafide pioneers behind the classic NYC Hip-Hop movement and its trademark rough and rugged sounds. 

Following an extended break of three years, to work on other projects, the duo reformed and recorded the highly anticipated Moment of Truth, which was released in the Spring of 1998.. The album quickly sold 500 000 copies in the U.S. and is certified Gold. “You Know My Steez”, “Royalty” featuring K-Ci & JoJo, and the classic high energy cut “The Militia”, featuring Gang Starr Foundation members Big Shug and Freddie Foxxx led the charge.

During the extended break, DJ Premier produced and remixed a steady flow of straight classic tracks for Nas, Biggie, Bone Thugs N’ Harmony, Blahzay Blahzay, Group Home, KRS-One, D’Angelo, Jay-Z, Janet Jackson, and others.

Staying hungry, fresh and new, during this period he clearly defined his sound and rightful laid claim to being the top Hip-Hop producer in the world.

This interview took place onsite the legendary D&D Studios located in the heart of Manhattan, NY, in late 1997. Inside the very production room chock full of the studio gear he crafts the magic, and DJ Premier block booked until he he eventually purchased the entire studio in 2003 renaming it HeadQCourtterz. The slot is split with a Japanese journalist. The tape is unedited and the interview plays exactly as recorded in 1998.

DJ Premier defines who he makes the music for, its reach, his relationship with Guru, the thought process behind recording an album with Guru and banging out his patented boom bap for others. He breaks down the equipment inside the room, the influence of technology on his sound, discusses beat integrity, Jazzmatazz, the state of Gang Starr Foundation, the significance of money, and the business behind working with artists hungry for his beat magic.     

“Its love all the time. But if its an artist that I know made some sales and if they got they cheddah, even if they ain’t really seen much. I know the label made their dough and they went at least platinum, even if they were underground artists, I’m gonna charge them because they can afford to pay me what I deserve for my talent.

If they’re friends of mine, like M.O.P. I’m always gonna bless them with the way we work out our business. I’m negotiable. I won’t just charge expensive to everybody. Now I’m at a point where I can but I won’t with certain cats. Even Jay-Z. I give him a break because I knew him on a different level, so I’ll look out for him. A lot of people like are like’Damn, why you looking out for Jay-Z?’ Hey, I can do that.

Same thing with Biggie. Me and Biggie was cool as friends when we met him around his way, when we moved over in Fort Greene (Brooklyn). First time around I didn’t charge him nothing. It was peanuts for “Unbelievable” and he went double, triple platinum and all that, and I said, it’s time to put a price on that. He was cool, no problem. They didn’t argue it or nothing. And I wasn’t greedy. I don’t stick you up and be like I want a 100 thousand dollars and stuff like that.

We’re fair because we know fair business is what’s going to keep me hired, keep me in the game. And this is part of the politics of how to place yourself without being a sell out, and that’s how I do it. I like the way my business is run and I’m glad I’m learning more things about how to keep longevity existing in my life and in my career.”

Guru offered up the successful Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 1, in late Spring 1993, prior to the release of Hard To Earn. Stepping outside the Gang Starr arena while adding to his legacy by recording with the artists they sampled in the studio. A jazz rap mix with an all-star band, including contributions by luminaries Lonnie Liston Smith, Branford Marsalis, Ronny Jordan, Donald Byrd and Roy Ayers. The album met with critical acclaim and the band toured the world.

Guru’s Jazzmatazz, Vol. 2: The New Reality was released in Summer 1995 with special guest performances by luminaries Freddie Hubbard, Donald Byrd, Ramsey Lewis, Kool Keith, Lady Patra, Jamiroquai, Branford Marsalis, Courtney Pine, Ronny Jordan and Paul Ferguson. It outsold volume one and an extended tour ensued.

The unique style and beats of DJ Premier manifested into a powerful  all terrain vehicle when coupled with the unique style, vocals and lyrics of the late great, Guru. A quintessential reality rapper, Guru approached and delivered his lyrical flow as one-on-one dialogue with the youth. 

This late 1997 one-on-one interview occurred in the D&D Studios lounge.

In it for the love and art, Guru speaks on the healthy competition between the old school and new school. While detailing the process of creating a Gang Starr album, he relays what keeps the duo working together and relevant.

“Respect for each others as individuals, as best friends, and mainly as artists for what we do in this career of Hip-Hop, of Rap. Its what we represent and what we stand for. Our philosophies are a lot similar and we have different styles. I’m more outgoing and vocal and he’s more laid back but we balance each other out. We used to be roommates, so we know each other well. It’s love there and we got each others back.”

He delves deep into the music of the day when discussing the state of Hip-Hop in 1997, the growth of his beloved industry and where Gang Starr fits into the scheme, and the significance of Moment of Truth.

But what about the love. How did Guru maintain his love for the art of Hip-Hop?

“That’s a good question. I maintain my love. It starts from a family and it spreads to individuals who have always supported me. To cats that be on the street that tell me, ‘Yo, keep doing your thing.’ ‘Yo, when you coming out?’ ‘Yo, I got all your joints.’ ‘You made my day ‘cause if it wasn’t for you there would be no me.’

The people that support and represent are the reason why I’m doing this. They put me on. Once I know that I stay humble and spread my love.”

Afrika Bambaataa – New York State of Mind (Vol. 1)

New York City is the birthplace of Hip-Hop. Key artists, personalities and phenomenons walk its streets on the daily. The Five Boroughs and then some live and breathe Hip-Hop. Its a birthright. 

The art form originated in The Bronx back in 1973 and is credited to Jamaican ex-pat Kool Herc. He set up a sound system and mixed Funk with Latin percussion together into extended breaks, while hyping up the crowd on the mic.  Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa soon joined in with their own twists and turns and Hip-Hop was born. 

Afrika Bambaata was instrumental in the creation of electro funk and resulting monumental changes in the music industry by producing groundbreaking classics Planet Rock and Looking For The Perfect Beat with the Soulsonic Force. He formed the socially aware outer-world centric Universal Zulu Nation on the strength of the African American street gang, Black Spades, and was the first to claim and portray the art form as a culture. 

This 1995 interview was conducted in Toronto. Afrika Bambaataa was preparing for the release of his new funk and Hip-Hop album on Profile, Africa Bambaataa Presents Time Zone: Warlocks and Witches, Computer Chips, Microchips and You.

He speaks on the Zulu Nation, other worlds, conspiracy theories, the state of Hip-Hop and its inherent adaptability.

“There’s a lot of things that the brothers and sisters they just talk. They need to stop talking and listen sometime and start knowing what’s going on. There’s some people that take an I don’t give a fuck attitude but don’t know that there’s people behind there that’s ready to take you if you don’t have your social security, your income tax right. Just waiting for the chance to come and snatch you, if you making all these big records and everything. You got to watch yourself. They’re not playing around.”

The Real Eminem: Broke City Trash Rapper

I am a sick fuck. I’m a sick minded fuck, I think. I’ve got an imagination that’s out this world, I think. – Eminem

This book contains two exclusive in-person April 1999 interviews with Eminem and one exclusive in-person 2001 interview with D12.

The first Eminem interview occurred at 3:00 a.m. April 4, 1999 inside a downtown Detroit asbestos filled warehouse located directly off the notorious Mack Avenue. Eminem and crew, including a rare appearance by Royce da 5”9, were set to perform a homecoming show of sorts at a Rave on a bill with New York City based U.S. Techno pioneer Frankie Bones and Kevin Saunderson, legendary Detroit Techno pioneer, noted electronic music Producer, and revered member of the Belleville Three.

Earlier that weekend I had connected with international blogger/radio host/promoter Matt Sonzala, to attend the 28th annual Hash Bash on April 3rd in Ann Arbor, Michigan at the University of Michigan Diag. The annual festival dedicated to reforming marijuana laws within a proactive and positive setting, including activist speeches, music and vendors. As a long-time fan of Eminem, Matt was excited to join in on the scheduled interview. 

Eminem had just arrived back in his hometown Detroit after a two week European promotional trip, where he was constantly quizzed about the colour of his skin and what Spice Girl he would like to impregnate. We sat down at a long table inside the abandoned warehouse with him and key members of his crew and began to talk. Eminem spoke on what is was like coming up as an independent artist out of a city as raw as Detroit, the way in which his career and hometown recognition had flipped 360 degrees, the underground, his crew and being perceived as a role mode. However, with friends and crew present, and the responsibilities that exist whenever artists perform a hometown show, the interview broke up twelve minutes in when he declared “I gotta piss like a motherfuckin’ racehorse.” The crew took the stage with Eminem, Proof and Royce da 5”9 trading rapid fire verses and the crowd went wild.

I had met Proof during the ascent of his Dirty Dozen partner Eminem in February 1998, while attending the Fall/Winter Magic International apparel convention in Las Vegas, Nevada. He was assisting Detroit City urban apparel pioneer designer, Maurice Malone. Malone was an instrumental figurehead in the Detroit underground Hip-Hop scene as the man behind The Hip-Hop Shop where Eminem, his Dirty Dozen compatriots and countless other emcees carved reputations. Proof asked if I had heard of Eminem, stated he was named checked in a song, and produced his I.D. to match the name. We then touched base at Las Vegas Magic International shows in August 1998 and February 1999 before reconnecting, again, in April 1999 for the two interviews featured within this book.   

The second interview with Eminem and Proof occurred one week after the first one on April 10, 1999 over lunch inside the three star Primrose Hotel in downtown Toronto. They were set to perform a show at The Opera House that night and we were allotted time to complete the cover feature interview and a photo shoot. Eminem was relaxed, clam and open and Proof was by his side chiming in with comments and responses. He spoke at length on music as therapy, baby mama drama, underground Hip-Hop and white rapper stereotypes while establishing his true core.

The early years of Eminem are documented in the 2002 major motion picture 8 Mile. He earned his reputation within the industrial wasteland of Detroit’s underground Hip-hop scene. His daughter Hailie was born Christmas Day 1995; One thousand copies of the Nas inflected Infinite album on Web Entertainment were released on November 12, 1996 to little fanfare; He disappeared into a life of low end jobs, while experiencing deep psychological battles and wars with the mother of his child; He began his ascent by carving out an international reputation as a fierce MC on virtually every key underground Hip-Hop site fueled by his mixtape appearances and songs; Re-emerging a new man on December 6, 1997 with The Slim Shady EP on Web Entertainment. Five hundred copies were pressed.

A dark, angry, moody menagerie documenting his real life trials and tribulations, the EP had him poised to reach the next level. He traveled to Los Angeles and was awarded second place in the National Rap Olympics battle rap competition. A copy of the EP landed in the hands of Interscope Records President Jimmy Iovine, who played it for Dr. Dre, and a star shined bright in the midwest. The song that sealed the deal, “Just The Two of Us”. A skin deep dark and ugly manifestation of baby mother drama to the extreme.

EminemInfinite

https://youtu.be/4s9epKCKbec

EminemThe Slim Shady EP

https://youtu.be/dbqS-1Q9c8k

Eminem didn’t invent ill rhyming or the ill lower class mentality, however he had lived it, seen it, done it, and was now speaking on it for the world to hear. He was not a bad guy. Everything he wrote, rapped or spoke had been in the mix, in one form or another, before.

When he parachuted into Hip-Hop and Pop culture consciousness on January 25, 1999 with his omnipresent single “My Name Is” and Dr. Dre in his corner, Eminem polarized purists, pundits, and mainstream media all at once, commando style. Operating on different brain waves, quite possibly the result of a chemical imbalance, the sick, out of this world vivid imagination of Broke City Trash Rapper Eminem rapping on guns, knives, rape and murder captured the minds of a new breed of Hip-Hop fan. The Slim Shady LP on Aftermath Entertainment/Interscope Records/Web Entertainment followed on February 23, 1999 and immediately entered the U.S. Billboard 200 charts at number two. It went on to earn the 2001 Grammy for Best Rap Album and Best Rap Solo Performance for “My Name Is” and sell over eighteen million copies worldwide.

During the period of these interviews Eminem’s life was racing one-hundred million miles an hour yet he managed to maintain a grip on reality by sticking with the crew he came with up consisting of Proof, Bizarre, Royce da 5”9, Porter, DJ Head, The Brigade and Manager Paul Bunyon, AKA Paul Rosenberg. Eminem firmly placed anyone else in his midst in the role of an extra, not to be trusted. He may have given the odd person a play but he steadfast refused to do anything of note for anyone outside of his core crew. 

These interviews deliver a raw twenty-six year old Eminem, the real Eminem as an angry young man eager to prove himself to the world and give them the middle-finger at the same time. These interviews deliver an Eminem solely concerned with representing himself, his family, and those he came up with in his time of need. These interviews deliver an Eminem who proudly declared he lived for the day.

The second part of the book features an exclusive 2001 interview with D12. It provide a first-hand look into the “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” mindset of the crew and choice background information on Eminem in the midst of becoming an international phenomenon.

CODA

Following the April 10, 1999 interview, Eminem and Proof were up for a Toronto trip. A few hours later, pre-show, they answered the door of room 911 inside the Primrose Hotel. A baggy was produced. Eminem asked what was inside, nodded his head, and then he and Proof each dropped two tabs of pure MDMA. Upon touching The Opera House stage, during the first song of the set, Eminem dove into the crowd and another tale in Toronto music history was born. Immediately following the show, he was whisked away in a private plane and flown to Los Angeles to shoot the dark comedy “Role Model” video co-written by Dr. Dre and Mel-Man, and co-Directed by Dr. Dre and Phillip Atwell.